Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dealing with Language Disabilities

At times, parenting can be a tough job. Parenting special needs kids adds a whole new element to the idea of tough parenting. Sometimes there just aren't any easy answers to some of your kids challenges. My biggest concern right now is my son Anthony. Honestly, I am not sure where to go to get him help.

When he came to us at 2 1/2 he had several issues, behaviorally and developmentally. We are still dealing with both issues but lately his language development has become my biggest concern. Thankfully, his behavior issues have improved enough for me to be able to concentrate on his other needs. Anthony hadn't been talked to before coming into care so he missed so many language development milestones. We got all available services for him and when he turned three he attended the school program. He also received speech services outside of school. By kindergarten he tested out of speech services because his vocabulary was on target. I knew that he still had a communication issue but it wasn't obvious at testing for his age level.

This year he started first grade (against my suggestion that he repeat kindergarten) and it quickly became apparent that he was not ready emotionally or behaviorally. Thankfully, he was quickly placed back in kindergarten. By December I was becoming very concerned by his language development. Particularly his conversation skills. It was very difficult to have a conversation with him, he couldn't answer questions and quite often just gave a blank stare when I talked to him. I requested testing for speech services.

I knew that he was struggling but when testing showed that he had problems with both expressive and receptive language skills I was shocked. Based on his scores it was apparent that he has a language disability and he is now receiving speech services in school. However, I don't feel that it is enough and I am not sure where to turn for help. This is not a mental health issue but I do feel that it contributes to his behavior issues.

In the last week I have really noticed that he has serious issues with his homework. As the concepts has gotten more difficult he has just not been able to keep up. Most frustrating to me was for me to show him how to do a problem and then have him sit down and write something completely different. For me to give him an answer and then for him to go sit down and write something different. If it is frustrating for me I can't imagine how it feels for him. Finally, at some point I would just write a note saying that he is unable to do the assignment. I have been doing a lot of that lately.

So yesterday I pulled out his test results to see what else I could gleam from it. When we got the results we were in shock because it was so much worse then what we thought. I didn't really take the time to go beyond the results. Looking at it now I see that his pragmatic score was 2, the standard score is 68. I have been researching pragmatic difficulties and have been so surprised by what I have found. Pragmatics is the use of language in social contexts (knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it - and how to 'be' with other people).

"Children with pragmatic difficulties have great trouble using language socially in ways that are appropriate or typical of children of their age. They often do not understand that we take turns to talk, and they will 'talk over the top of you' at times, or, at other times respond to what you say with inappropriate silences, or in a voice that is too quiet. They may interrupt excessively and talk irrelevantly or about things the listener shows no interest in. Their communicative behaviour often appears rude and inconsiderate." Caroline Bowen

Ah, that fits Anthony to a tee. So, when you add that to receptive and expressive language difficulties then what are you dealing with? Many articles say that children with pragmatic difficulties are often high functioning autistic. That was new to me, I don't really feel that Anthony is autistic.

I wonder if his educational issues are all related to his language difficulties or is that another issue we need to address. Seems like the language issues make testing for anything else difficult. I am not sure where to go from here. He receives services in the school but I feel that his issues are severe enough that school based speech services are just not enough. He meets with a group of kids and I think that he needs some one on one services. At this time my plans are to pursue getting him back into individual speech services during the summer. I am also thinking that I want to get more testing done as well. We are moving in a month so I will have to wait until we are moved to do anything. I have requested a meeting with all his teachers so that I can get any suggestions from them before we leave.
I am open to suggestions about where to get services or what to try. I feel like I am walking blindly at this time. Dang, this parenting can be tough.

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